The Destruction of Cameron Highlands

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As a child, my first impression of Cameron Highlands was a faraway wonderland filled with little cottages and tea plantations surrounded by jungles and orang asli. My first trip to Cameron Highlands was realised much later when I decided to make it a dream trip for my honeymoon. I was not dissapointed as the beauty of the tea plantations and the idyllic English styled cottages were truly breathtaking. At the same time, I was saddened with the amount of logging trucks that I see plying up and down the winding trunk road down to Tapah.

Over the years, Cameron Highlands remained a favourite vacation spot for me. I truly love the walks, the stays in the old bungalows, having scones at the tea plantations. When I took up trekking, Cameron Highlands proved to be the best place to establish a trekking paradise for Peninsular Malaysia. It is surrounded by beginner friendly mountains; Brinchang, Mentinggi, Jasar, Perdah, Irau, Ruil, Berembun, Suku, Yellow, Pass and not to mention, it is also the gateway to the big ones like; Yong Yap, Yong Belar, Gayong.

Environmentally, Cameron Highlands continue to deteriorate but as each year passes, the rate of destruction of its natural environment appears to magnify. We have had landslide hitting a popular orang asli village which killed 7 villagers. We had a massive flood which is mind boggling which wiped out illegal settlements along the river reportedly 2 illegal immigrants. The locals however believed the fatality numbers to be higher. It does not take rocket science to conclude that all the destruction came from the clearing of land which is rampant all over Cameron Highlands. To add salt to the wound, the local MP elected from the Cameron Highlands seat, G. Palanivel is the Minister of Natural Resources & Environment. Since G. Palanivel has taken office, nothing substantial has been done to protect Cameron Highlands. The bulldozers continue to clear the lands.

On my last visit to Cameron Highlands, my local friend sadly informed me that Gunung Mentinggi is gone and large plots of land are also being clearing in Kg Rajah, next to Gunung Yellow. We took the opportunity to walk our favourite route via Jalan Tengkolok to the orang asli village. We shocked to find the amount of land clearing that is taking place.  Perhaps the following pictures could give an inkling of our sadness and shock.

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The above is Gunung Perdah which adjoining to the Orang Asli Village back in 2008.

Today the area leading to the orang asli village and the adjoining mountain.

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Pictures of more landing clearing, this clearing is closer to Gunung Jasar.

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My only conclusion is that the glory days of Cameron Highlands are numbered. The green will be gone one day.

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Kedongdong Falls

Located half between Batang Kali and Gotong Jaya, along trunk road B66 is a less frequent waterfalls called Kedongdong Falls. I have never been and decided to check it out. We exited the highway at Rawang and drove towards Batang Kali. Upon reaching Batang Kali, we followed the signs for Genting Highlands and soon came a car-park at the left side of the road. It was easy to find and for the starting point, just move towards the East end of the carpark up the stairs to the jungle trail.

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The jungle trail was straight forward, continuous along the the river and after a 40 minutes hike, we reached Kedongdong Falls. It was time for picnic and a dip.

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S. Wei had a surprise cake for Michelle as it was her birthday.

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It was an easy hike, good start for beginners. But for us, it was a great day to share an Sunday morning, amongst fellow nature lovers.

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Coordinates : – N 03 25.82′ E 101 43.86′

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Anak Penanjakan Trek

After the short hike up Mount Bromo, we wanted to see more of the country side which was absolutely stunning and decided to trek up to Gunung Anak Penanjakan. We were were not disappointed but were rewarded with breath-taking countryside views. Something we never expected out of Indonesia.

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When we finally reached the peak of Anak Penanjakan, it was filled with beautiful wild flowers. There no view from the peak. Too much tree cover. But the trek up to the mountain was an unforgettable experience.

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After the hike, we left Cemoro Lawang with a last glimpse of the colourful village life and boarded a mini bus which was driven by a fourteen year old.

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Mount Bromo

After Kawah Ijen. we had a long journey to Cemoro Lawang where we arrived in the evening. After checking in, we immediately booked our ride for Gunung Penanjakan to view Mount Bromo in the sunrise. We were woken up at 4 am and it was truly freeze cold.

We were lead to our jeep and we took off into the foggy dark. We couldn’t see more than 10 feet in front of us, so it was amazing how the driver managed to locate his way. Miraculously, we reached the summit of Gunung Penanjakan where we found there were scores of tourists already waiting at the view point. We joined the crowd and waited for sunrise.

The Dark

Light in the horizon

Sunrise

We could see the sun creeping out in the horizon. At first, we could only see a faint silhouette of Mount Bromo. But as the light of dawn became more prominent, we could see the majestic Mount Bromo appearing before us.

Bromo

Truly a picture perfect site.

Mount Bromo

We then proceed down to the valley to climb up to Mount Bromo.

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Bromo in the mist

We reached the valley floor, there were many touts offering donkey rides to the base of Mount Bromo. We decline and walked the short walk and found proper steps leading all the way to the peak. We took the stairs, the higher we go, the stronger the smell of sulphur. After a short climb, we reached the peak which was filled with tourist.

Peak of Bromo

Stairs down with donkeys waiting

Been There

Bromo would rate on one of my most scenic destination. Done it, so glad I did.

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Kawah Ijen – a true gem of East Java

May & I decided to go somewhere we have never been for the holidays and decided to go to Kawah Ijen, Mount Bromo and Surabaya. We planned to take the first flight to Surabaya which will give us plenty of time to get to Bondowoso which is 70 km from Kawah Ijen, the first leg of our journey.

After having to wake up in the wee dark early hours, paying extra for taxi and while we waited excitedly for our adventure, Air Asia announced that the flight was delayed. Okay, that is expected, I thought. We waited and we waited and there was no announcements. . Finally, we were asked to line up. Thought we finally get to fly but then I realised that they were distributing lunch boxes. This must be bad.  I was joking with May that the flight will probably be another 3 hours because they were trying to bribe us with food. As though they heard me, Air Asia immediately announced that flight is ready to be boarded.

We finally arrived in Surabaya,  almost 4 hours later. The pretty Indonesian lass at the tourist reception counter was very nice, friendly and helpful. She provided us with 3 different maps and discouraged us from taking a taxi. Instead, she immediately directed us to a local bus shuttle which will take us directly to the main bus terminal.

The bus terminal was a mad house filled with people, buses and noise. We were very glad that we could speak bahasa but still we were directed from one platform to another. Then we were told there were no Bondowoso buses and we had to take a bus to Situbondo to switch buses. Then someone pointed the Situbondo bus was leaving. May reacted first by running after the bus. I stood still when May shouted come on, move. And there, we were running after the bus comically carrying our 70 litres back packs. The conductor saw us and stopped the bus.

Riding in a local Indonesian bus was quite an experience. The bus stopped every 2 km or so. Tons of people got on and alighted. And there were peddlers at every stop. They get on to peddle everything from fruits, cakes, nuts, drinks, newspapers, cigarettes, flowers, fried noodles, crackers, the list seemed endless. Here we were, two foreigners stuck in a bus with tons and tons of locals. A sensitive non smoker would be horrified to find that the locals smoke their kreteks (clover cigarettes) in the bus.

After three hours on the bus, I called the hotel to informed that we will be late because we were on a bus to Situbondo and need to switch buses there. Then the bombshell came, the hotel informed us that we will miss the connecting last bus when we reach Situbondo. The hotel advised us to get down in Besuki to get an connecting bus. It was dark, we were in a foreign land and chances of getting stuck in a small village in the middle of East Jawa became possibility. We both panicked and asked everyone on the bus how to get to Bondowoso. Our bus conductor saved the day when she stopped another bus and asked us to get switch. She reassured us that that bus will take us directly to Bondowoso.

Finally, we reached Bondowoso at about 9 pm where we grabbed two (one could not accommodate both of us with our 70 litres packs) becaks (tricycles) we see because we were tired and disorientated. Turns out the beca ride took only 3 minutes and we were at our hotel.

Originally, we expected to check out the town when we arrive in the afternoon to look for the place to take the local bus to Patulding when you start to climb Kawah Ijen. But we were desperate and asked the local bellboy to arrange for a taxi. Mas came to meet us at 10 pm to discuss our journey. He was going to charge us RM 50 for a return trip. After much negotiation, we conclude at RM 80 for him to take us to Patulding and then sent us to Cemoro Lawang the station for Bromo. We agreed to a 6:30 an pick up.

It was a long day and quite an experience for us. Thankfully, the next day was a breeze. No delays. We were picked up prompt at 6:30 am.

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We started climbing at about 8:00 am

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Posing at Kawah Ijen Pondok

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Mei and Mas

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The long road up the crater. You can see sulphur carriers in the distance.

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It was cold and misty

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Sulphur collection centre

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A sulphur carrier with a 70 kg load on his back

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Finally, reaching the crater. It was too misty for a clear picture.

Kwah Ijen was quite an experience. The trek was beautiful. Unfortunately, we couldn’t catch a clear shot at the crate. Felt great that we made it to Kawah Ijen, we proceed to Cemoro Lawang for Bromo.

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Loh Mee @ Sinki, Dengkil

It is often said that small towns have hidden gems for food. Dengkil, a small town a stone throw from KLIA has one of such gems. Located in the middle of this one street town, Sinki restaurant looks like any other small town eating shops but come lunch time, you will normally find it packed.

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We found Sinki while touring around Dengkil, looking for a place to eat. The huge crowd attracted us to check it out and we were fortunate enough to get a small vacant table even though it was packed.

Looking at the other tables for clues on what to order, we ended up with:-

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Almost every table had fish balls with vegetables. Have no regrets as the fish balls were absolutely crunchy and good.

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Their vegetables were a bit overcooked but nevertheless was above average in taste.

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The fish was cooked in Sinki style where the threadfin (Kurau) is fried before having a rich chili padi filled sauce poured over generously over it. Original and good.

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Lastly but not least, the Loh Mee was also very popular here. Many patrons ordered it with large river prawns. Decided to forgo the prawns to keep the cholesterol down and was not disappointed. The taste of the simple Loh Mee was delicious, comparable, if not better than Ulu Yam’s.

Just drive the Dengkil and look for Sinki which is right in the middle in a row of shops. You can miss it. The drive out from KL to this small eatery is definitely worth the trouble.

 

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Killing a Priest on a Sunday, that’ll be a Good One

It isn’t often that we get a movie which does not have sex, violence and action but yet can capture your imagination and interest to sit glued to your seat waiting for the moments to unravel. In fact, it is so rare that I cannot recall a similar movie in recent history.

Calvary

Anyway, Brendan Gleeson has managed to pull this off in his role as Father James in an Irish release, “Calvary” which is focused in a small town where Father James had someone confessed to him in the confessional booth that he will kill him the following Sunday.

The whole movie then twines around Father James’ character as he moves about in the congregation during the next six days and going through the lives of the congregation. It was a “who is going to do it” plot that will keep you guessing until the very last moment and for you to wonder whether Father James is really going to be killed.

It was truly a masterpiece for me and it definitely will rank amongst my best movie of the year.

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